Today Ken Olisa was officially named as the most powerful black person in Britain.
Born in 1951 of a Nigerian father and a British mother, and a native of Nottingham, Olisa’s technology career commenced in the 1970s at IBM after he won a scholarship while an undergraduate at Cambridge University, where he studied Natural Sciences and then Social, Political and Management Sciences at Fitzwilliam College. At IBM he held various posts before joining Wang Laboratories in 1981. Following a period as Marketing Director for Europe, VP of US Marketing and then of Worldwide Marketing based in Boston, he was appointed Senior VP and General Manager of Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME) located in Brussels. He led the team which restored the EAME operation to profitability, following which he launched an unsuccessful MBO resulting in his departure in 1992.
Brought up in straitened circumstances by his single mother (he never knew his father, who left them to return to Nigeria when he was young) this he 63-year old was the first British born black man to serve on the board of a public company (Reuters), has his own merchant bank (Restoration Partners), and a library named after him at his Cambridge alma mater (Fitzwilliam).
He is a Freeman of the City of London; Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists; a Director of the Thomson Reuters Foundation; Chairman of Thames Reach (a charity working to shelter and resettle the homeless in London); founding Chairman of the Powerlist Foundation – to which he has been voted number 2 for 2015; a Vice President of the British Computer Society and a past member of the Government’s Women’s Enterprise Taskforce. He was also a Governor of the Peabody Trust for a decade and a NED of the West Lambeth NHS Trust for three and a half years. His experience of regulation is substantial. He has been a regulatee of the FSA since 1993 and a start-up regulator twice; first as an inaugural Postal Services Commissioner from 2001 to 2004 and more recently as a Board member of IPSA, the body charged with managing MPs’ expenses, pay and pensions.